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To the Manager Who Called My Therapist After I Confided in Him

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Dear Manager,

When the winter season was drawing near, I thought it would be courteous of me to let you know I might appear “off” at times after traveling to work in winter weather. For some reason, I felt compelled to confide in you about the life-changing accident that resulted in my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis. For some reason, I thought I could trust you when I told you that I often experience panic attacks while traveling in the car and that on bad days it may take some time for me to fully come back to myself once I arrived for my shifts. To ease your mind, I made sure to advise you that my husband would bring me to the station on the days I was too triggered to drive. I assured you that I would maintain my exceptional job performance. You seemed to listen intently to what I said, and by the end of the conversation it appeared that you and I were on the same page. You said that you understood what my struggles were and appreciated that I was being proactive in my approach to overcoming those struggles. I left your office feeling lighter, lifted up by your support and kindness.

• What is PTSD?

With that being said, you may be able to imagine my shock when I ended my shift and was met with an alarming voicemail from my therapist. Audibly upset, he urged me to return his call right away. When I called him, my therapist told me what you did. How you called and questioned him about my diagnosis, symptoms, and ability to hold a job. How, when you didn’t get answers from him, you spoke with his boss and crossed the line even further — to the point that my therapist got a stern talking-to. How could you? With how forthcoming I was, why didn’t you just ask me these questions? Did you think that I was fabricating my illness? What were you thinking?

The next day, I was still boiling over with anger and disgust at your unethical (not to mention illegal!) actions. Thirty minutes before the start of my shift, I knocked on your door and asked to speak with you. You responded with a wary smile; I had no smile to return. Straight to the point, I closed the door and asked if you called my care team. You admitted that you did. When I asked you why, you crossed your arms, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You have to understand that we can’t have someone working here who won’t come to their shifts because it’s snowing.” My gritted teeth kept my jaw from plummeting to the floor. At that moment I realized you hadn’t listened to what I told you about my condition, and that you were too busy making snap judgments to hear my plans for maintaining my attendance and stellar performance. Somehow I held it together enough to calmly re-hash my plans for overcoming my trauma responses.

When I finished, you made it clear that you were all-consumed by your assumptions. Despite telling you only moments before that my personal struggles would not impact my work, you reiterated your concern that I would not show up to my assigned shifts when it snowed. I wished that my battle was as simple as you made it out to be. Tears burned behind my eyes and I thought that my teeth were going to shatter from clenching so hard. There was nothing I could say, and even if I wanted to continue my efforts to make you understand, I couldn’t. The lump in my throat was obstructing my breathing and threatening to choke me out. With all of my anticipation of likely panic attacks on the way to work, I never imagined that I would have one on the job, much less one resulting from your closed-minded judgments. All I wanted to do was tell you to shove my job where the sun didn’t shine and storm out of there. But I didn’t. Somehow, I managed to endure my shift. For the next year, I proved over and over again (just as I always had) that nothing would obstruct my high performance.

Two years later, I am happy to say that I no longer answer to you and that toxic place. Never again will I want to crawl out of my skin when you look in my direction. Never again will I waste my talents for a person or company that does not have compassion for human struggles. Never again will I explain myself to you or to anyone. My journey is my own, and only I need to understand it.

Getty image by Prostock-Studio

Originally published: November 10, 2021
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